Give me all the stripes

Mango striped dress

There’s something about stripes. No wardrobe is complete without a Breton striped top – or 20. And why stop there? This spring I’m reaching for the stripes again and again – and I’m not planning on changing course anytime soon.

Mango striped dress

Luckily for Breton lovers everywhere, stripes are big news this spring. There’s so many ways to wear them. Here’s just a few I love…

The stripy shirt dress. My pink linen one is by Mango. It sold out FAST online, but there are lots more to choose from – including a very similar version in blue. Choose a collar-less shirt dress like these three – its a unfussy and pretty look for spring and summer.

Stripy shirt dresses

From left: Blue linen, £49.99, Mango / Navy stripe, £35.99, Stradivarius

 Button up dress, £39.99 , Zara

The classic Breton dress. You need one of these in your wardrobe.  They’re perfect for city breaks, picnics, the beach and just about anything else in between! Just add shades and a basket bag.

From left: Sailor dress, £45, Seasalt / Ruffled sleeve dress, £15.99, Mango

 Ribbed jersey dress, £19.99, New Look

The flippy skirt. Choose a stripy skirt in a flowing or pleated fabric. It’ll move with you and keep you cool in every sense of the word! These three versions can be dressed up or down all summer long.

Stripy skirts

From left: Colour block skirt, £89, Hush / Yellow wrap skirt, £25, Monki

Pink linen skirt, £35.99, Mango

The stripy shirt with a twist. Update the classic shirt and jeans look with one of these cute tie-front versions by New Look. So versatile and flattering! Great for cooler days with jeans, or with shorts on the beach.

Stripy tie front shirt

From left: Multi stripe, £19.99, New Look / Blue stripe, £15.99, New Look

 Pink stripe, £19.99, New Look

Mango striped dress

I wear: Stripy dress, £39.99, Mango (sold out online, but try in store) / Shoes, £25.99, Marks and Spencer / Basket, from a French holiday – similar here

Do you love stripes as much as me? What’s your favourite way to wear them?

Three reasons why you need a floral dress this spring

Long sleeved floral dress by H&M

The floaty, flouncy floral dress. That alliteration sounds good, right? 

Here’s three reasons why you should try one…

They’re fun and flirty. Say goodbye to heavy winter coats and start showing off the beautiful details on your clothes. Pretty sleeves, cute necklines and nipped-in waists all scream spring and feel so perky and happy. Toughen the look up with a utility jacket or a biker.

Long sleeved floral dress by H&M

They’re great for in-betweeny weather. Longer sleeves and longer hemlines are so forgiving when the weather can’t make up it’s mind. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your legs still looking pale!

Long sleeved floral dress by H&M

Dress up or down. A long floral dress is so versatile. Great for a trip to the market with flats and a denim jacket – but also perfect for a summer wedding. The sleeves on this H&M dress are fantastic and really make the dress feel really special – but can equally well be hidden away under a jumper or jacket.

Long sleeved floral dress by H&M

I wear: Dress in size 10, £39.99, H&M (in store only) / Jacket, £69, FatFace / Shoes, £25, Marks and Spencer / Bag, for similar try Not on the High Street

Have I convinced you? My dress isn’t available online, but is still available in store at H&M. Here are some more I love…

Floaty floral dresses

From left: Kathleen dress, Boden, £130 / Heavy Petal Dress, Topshop, £49

 Crinkled long dress, £49.99, H&M

Be your own best friend: why it’s time to start taking your own advice

Wild flowers in the garden

Good friends don’t knock you down, they build you up. They give us advice when we need it most – with kindness, firmness and tact. But sometimes that friend isn’t there, and we have to rely on ourselves for advice. Not so easy. So often we’re full of self-doubt and criticism. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to be your own best friend. 

Re-visit the classic pros and cons list.

Remember those lists you used to make with your friends about boys as a teenager? Use them now to remind yourself that there’s always two sides to every tricky situation. Don’t just think about this in your head. It’s really important to actually write this stuff down on a piece of paper. Divide a piece of paper in two and write down everything in favour and against a particular decision. Writing things down conquers messy thoughts and forces you to take a more balanced approach – just as you would if you were explaining something to a friend.

Pick yourself up after a fall

What would you do to help a friend when something went wrong for them? You’d commiserate with them and give them a hug. Then you’d start building their confidence up again. So why is it that we’re so mean to ourselves when something doesn’t go to plan? More often than not, we’ll blame ourselves. Every little failure you chalk up against yourself will weaken your confidence. Stop it now, and be nice to yourself. If you made a mistake don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and move forward. And if you have a run of bad luck, remember that you’re not responsible for everything. Things hurt, but remind yourself that you’re strong, adaptable and flexible.

Wild flowers in the garden

Be your own biggest cheerleader

What would you tell a friend suffering from self-doubt? You’d tell them they can do it. You wouldn’t say, yup you’ve never done this before and you’re bound to be crap. Well, at least I hope you wouldn’t. Yet, this is what so many of us think inside our own heads every single day. These unhelpful thought patterns have great sticking power and are hard to shift. Interrupt that internal monologue of doubt by talking out loud. Have a few little mantras ready for tricky situations. You can do this, Lizzie is my favourite, and I say it to myself when I feel overwhelmed. And if things don’t go to plan, then tell yourself that you gave it your best shot.

Stage an intervention on yourself

It’s easy to get stuck in little ruts of unhelpful behaviour like going to bed too late or looking at your phone too much. Sometimes it takes someone else to point out what we’re doing wrong for us to want to make a change. But you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you what to do – make a change right now.  It’s easier not to act, but sometimes you have to be firm with yourself. Start taking the advice you know you need – whether it’s a digital detox, asking for help on a project or cutting down on your drinking.

Dear Diary

Don’t have someone else to confide in? Write things down. It’s funny how as soon you physically write something down, it feels more manageable. It’s like talking about a bad dream, and realising half way through how ridiculous it was. Keep a simple diary. It doesn’t need to be an essay. Jot down interesting things that you can enjoy looking back on. Or, if that’s not your thing try doing a daily brain dump in a notebook. Write down everything that’s niggling at you, then screw it up and chuck it away. It’s every bit as cathartic as a good chat with a friend.

Wild flowers in the garden

Are you good at being nice to yourself? I’d love to hear your favourite ways to be your own best friend.

 

The Weekend Edit: things to do, wear, see and eat

Yellow dress and blossom

Hello weekend, I’m definitely ready for you.

We’ve all been gritting our teeth through all the rain recently so a bit of spring warmth is most definitely in order. And bang on cue, the weather is supposed to be glorious this weekend. Need some inspiration? Here’s some simple ideas…

Make breakfast muffins. I love pancakes, but they’re time-consuming and a bit messy. Fruity breakfast muffins are the perfect alternative for lazy weekend breakfasts and brunch. They’re delicious and simple – and you can make them in advance. If you don’t already have a favourite recipe, then I recommend this book. It’s a classic and you’ll soon be making perfect muffins.

Breakfast muffins

Nice weather means new clothes. It’s been so hot this week that I’ve even been testing out some new summer dresses. Not quite ready for that yet? A great transitional piece right now is a pair of light-weight, loose trousers. I’m particularly loving these stripy ones by H&M.

Stripy trousers

Pick up a book. And then read it, preferably with a cup of coffee in the sunshine. I go through spurts of discovering new authors, and then pausing to re-discover things I’ve read before. Right now, I’m revisiting the novels of Mary Wesley. I read them all a decade ago, and I’m loving returning to them now – a little older and wiser. I’ve just finished An Imaginative Experience, which was excellent and perfectly off-beat – which was Mary Wesley’s speciality.

Be a blossom tourist. Soft, blousy flowers and blue sky are such a happy combination. Go seek it out. You don’t have to go anywhere fancy to find blossom. Just take a walk around your local streets. Magnolia is at it’s best right now – catch it now before it all disappears!

Magnolia in bloom

Pack away your winter wardrobe. I love delving in the boxes under my bed and re-discovering all the pretty spring clothes I’ve forgotten about. This weekend, I’m going to try and shift things round and bag up all my thick winter clothes. Make sure everything’s clean before you pack it away, and always remember to include some moth repellents to protect your nice knitwear.

Spring clothes flat-lay

Easy TV. Not sure if it’s spring, or a response to life being busy – but right now I’m all about the comfort tv. The boys and I have been re-watching old episodes of Escape to the Chateau. It’s dreamy and amusing – and it makes me wish we could up sticks and do something similar. If you fancy some drama, I’d also recommend the Welsh BBC drama, Keeping Faith. It’s one of best things I’ve seen this year.

Blossom and Avocados

What’s on your list this weekend? 

 

 

Wear yellow, be happy

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

Yellow. It’s a mood-boosting colour. Cheery yellow flowers, runny egg yolks and a sunshine-coloured new dress – they all make me happy.

As soon as I spotted this dress by Marks and Spencer I knew it was for me. It’s just the right shade of yellow – not too bright, not too mustardy. It’s perfect.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

It also feels really rather nice on – light, floaty and gratifyingly figure-skimming. Which is just what you need for those spring days when you’re starting to emerge from your safe cocoon of winter layers. It’s also made of that seventies cheesecloth fabric which I love because it doesn’t crease.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

My shoes are also by Marks and Spencer. Lilac is one of the colours of the year, and they make sure the dress feels very 2018.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

Can a dress make you happy? Well, this one certainly has that effect on me. Maybe it’s the holidays vibes, or the fancy sleeves. Whatever it is, it works.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

I wear: yellow dress in a roomy size 10, £39.50, Marks and Spencer

 Jacket in size 10, £69, Fat Face / Shoes in a generous size 6, £35, Marks and Spencer

A basket for every day of the week

Summer baskets

I’ve always loved baskets. So imagine how happy I am that they’re this summer’s must have accessory? They’re everywhere and available in every shape imaginable. It’s possible to have a different one for every day of the week – plus a few to spare!

To help you find the best of the best, I’ve created an edited collection of my favourite baskets and string bags.

First up, the classic market bag. Perfect for holidays, trips to your local market, swimming pool…the list is endless. You need at least one of these in your life.

Classic market bag

Clockwise from top left: natural straw tote, £32, Next / long-handled basket, £28, Not on the High Street / coast path basket, £27.50, Seasalt / round handle basket, £29.99, Zara

The round straw bag. Eminently chic and very photogenic. For instant glamour, wear anywhere from St Tropez to St. Ives. It also looks pretty good worn to your local supermarket.

Round basket bags

Clockwise from top left: circle tote bag, £30, Topshop / woven circle bag, £68, Rock n Rose / red circle bag, £39.99, Mango / circle bag with tassel, £29.99, Zara

The humble string bag is back! Another long-term favourite of mine. A bit seventies, a bit granny-chic – and actually very useful. The classic kind screw up in your bag and expand to fit all your shopping – and I love these grown-up handbag versions too.

String bags

Clockwise from top left: mauve bag, £14, Rock n Rose / Red string shopper, £22, Topshop / Natural bag, £29, Weald Store / blue string shopper, £29.99, Zara

The embellished basket. Because in 2018, embellishment is king. You need one of these for your holiday this summer – and for days when you need a little sunshine in your life!

Embellished baskets

Clockwise from top left: monkey bag, £28, Topshop / pom pom clutch, £28, Next / zig-zag bag, £29, Topshop / Floral bag, £49.99, Zara

Summer baskets

The only tough bit now is deciding which one to buy!

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

Teabags. They’re not as simple as we thought. 

I’ve been putting them in my compostable waste for years and always thought they were pretty harmless. Sadly, it turns out things are more complicated. That’s because tea bags are glued together with plastic. It stops them falling apart, but it also stops them biodegrading fully. Some teabags contain as much as 25% polypropylene.

For me, the humble teabag is yet another unsettling reminder that I’m using too much plastic. Not because I need it, but because it’s convenient. Because no one actually needs a strong tea bag glued together with plastic, do they? Its nice, yes. And it’s convenient. But is it essential to human life?

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

People have been drinking tea for a long time. The tea bag is a relative newcomer in comparison, but over the last fifty years or so it’s almost completely replaced loose tea. Like buying meat in neat, hygienic packets or soap in plastic dispensers – it’s quick, easy and we’ve got used to it.

But our simple and convenient lifestyle has consequences. Most of us have known this for a while, and it’s getting harder to brush it under the carpet. I was genuinely shocked when I heard that there is plastic in teabags. And I bet quite a few of you were too. Shock is good, because it forces us to change our habits.

And that’s why I’ve swapped my teabags for loose tea.

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

It’s no good me telling you that using loose tea is going to save the world. It isn’t. But if enough of us make small changes it does make a collective difference. It’ll cut down on the plastic that has been contaminating waste. And it’ll send a to tea companies that we’re not happy.

Drinking loose leaf tea takes a bit of getting used to. It helps to invest in a few useful things before you start. I have a teapot with a removable metal tea filter and I have several smaller metal filters with are the right size to sit in a mug. When I’m done, I bang the tea out into my compost bin.

It’s messier and it’s drippier. But it has one big compensation: it tastes better. It’s a bit of a revelation, to be honest. I used to only drink loose tea on high days and holidays. Now, it’s my everyday staple and I don’t know why I allowed myself to be conned into drinking such bad tea for so long.

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

There are, however, a few problems with loose tea. Some are easier to solve than others.

Mess. I don’t mind it, but it’s not for everyone. I can’t see it taking off in the average office anytime soon, for example. Which is why it’s so important that  tea companies make a commitment to making their teabags plastic free.

Cost. As it became less common, it was inevitable that loose tea would morph into a luxury product. That’s how I’ve always seen it. It is possible to buy affordable loose tea in bulk, but you’ll probably have to do it online. I order mine from Tugboat teas, whose English breakfast blend is delicious and affordable. I buy it in 500g bags and I’ve worked out that it costs me about 7p a cup. In comparison, my usual Yorkshire gold cost me about 3p a cup. So, there’s a difference. But it’s not bad when you consider just how much better it tastes.

Packaging. Buying loose tea is great, but it comes with its own packaging. And it’s not the friendliest. The bags I buy online are paper pouches lined with foil. I can’t put them with my recyclable waste, but I can post them back to the Tugboat teas who will have their own recycling scheme. It’s not ideal. I’m working on finding a local source of affordable loose tea where I can take my own container along and have the tea weighed directly into it.

Teapigs tea

Don’t want to give up tea bags?

You’ll be pleased to hear that lots of tea companies, like PG Tips and the Co-op, have pledged to go plastic free. And some brands are already doing it. Teapigs are a great example of a company who are getting it right.

I’ve lived without tea bags for a couple of months now and I wouldn’t go back. My next challenge is milk bottles! 

 

 

10 things to do on a rainy Easter weekend

10 things to do on a rainy Easter weekend

This Easter, the weather isn’t planning on playing ball. I have all my fingers and toes crossed that the forecast improves, but right now I’m looking at four solid days of rain. Which is disappointing. It’s ok to be British and moan about it for a while. But when you’re ready, here are my best ideas for beating the wet-weather blues.

Stay indoors and eat chocolate. I won’t judge you if this is how you choose to spend your Easter weekend. It’s an enormously tempting prospect and at least part of our weekend will be spent like this. Ideally with a Harry Potter film or a good book.

Organise an indoor egg hunt. Avoid the usual free-for-all searches that are so easy in a garden. Instead, create an indoor treasure hunt with clues or riddles to follow. Keep the momentum going with a few treats along the way.

Bake an Easter classic. Try making your own hot cross buns or a classic Simnel cake. Nigella has good recipes for both. Or if all else fails, hurl together some cornflakes, melted chocolate and mini eggs.

Hot Cross Buns

Get out for a walk anyway. Because you won’t actually melt in the rain, will you? Just one word of advice, go somewhere interesting. No one wants to trudge along a dyke in the rain (we have a lot of those in the Fens). Choose a hill, the seaside or somewhere with a fun trail to follow.

Go to a museum or gallery. Try something new or an old favourite. The newly re-opened Kettles Yard in Cambridge is top of my list.

Try indoor climbing. My family adores Clip ‘n Climb – who have centres all over the country. It’s an easy, safe and fun way to experience climbing walls. Adults and children share the same walls and it’s a great way to burn off some chocolate.

Make your table pretty. There’s something irresistibly charming about spring flowers and Easter decorations. Make the effort to dress your table with pretty china, sprigs of blossom and those adorable little fluffy chicks.

Decorating your table for Easter

An old-fashioned board game. My children are now old enough to play classics like Monopoly. These old games still have a real charm – and I’m both delighted and surprised that my Minecraft loving children agree.

Take a screen break. When you’re trapped indoors it’s very tempting to spend hours scrolling though your phone. Do it for a bit, but promise me you’ll take a break too? Pick up that book or magazine you’ve been meaning to read and enjoy it without digital distractions.

Garden in your head. It might be too wet and muddy to do any spring planting, but you can still dream. Buy some seeds and think of summer days.

Cup of coffee and an Easter egg

What are your favourite ways to beat the wet weather blues?

My spring interiors edit – with Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury Home Cushions

Beautiful homewares with my weekly shop? Yes please, Sainsbury’s. Every time I’m there doing my shopping something catches my eye. They’ve got all the bases covered – whether you’re kitting out your first home, looking for the latest interiors trends or just popping a nice scented candle in your trolley. 

With spring in the air I’ve been itching to give my sitting room a seasonal update. Luckily it’s fairly easy to ring the changes without doing anything drastic. Accessories are key. We can’t all change our furniture and sofas every year, but we can pick up little pieces which will instantly update our homes.

Sainsbury's Home faux succulents

At Sainsbury’s these accessories are beautifully designed, affordable and as easy to buy as a bag of doughnuts.

I like to start a seasonal update with cushions and throws. I’m always drawn to neutral greys and mustard yellows, so the Helsinki collection was exactly what I was looking for.

Sainsbury's home Helsinki cushions

I chose a large grey cushion, a throw and a smaller crewel-work cushion. I love the unexpected pop of navy.

Sainsbury's home Helsinki cushions

Once I’ve updated my cushions and throws, I like to look for a few on-trend decorative accessories to instantly update the feel of my room. This trio of faux succulents in concrete-effect pots are a brilliantly low-maintenance way to tap into the trend for houseplants and greenery. They look amazingly realistic!

Sainsbury's Home faux succulents

I don’t own any large vases. I tend to use jugs and jam jars, so there was a real gap in my home for a proper, grown-up vase. This bowl shaped vase feels so sophisticated. All for £6.

Sainsbury's glass bowl vase

Small changes, big difference. And all as easy as pie. 

Thank you to Sainsbury’s for gifting me the items mentioned in this post. Where possible I have linked to products online, but all are available in store now.

Hello British Summer Time + why every mouse needs to roar sometimes

New Look yellow shirt

I normally whinge about the clocks going forward. Because who actually likes losing an hour of their weekend? Well, me, it turns out. It means entering British Summer Time – which feels just as good as it sounds.

New Look yellow shirt and M&S shoes

I’m celebrating with some new spring buys. This yellow shirt by New Look is not only cute with jeans, it’ll also be the perfect cover-up to wear with sleeveless summer dresses if, like me, you don’t like your upper arms. And the shoes? Soft leather pumps by Marks and Spencer – available in a variety of ice cream shades – and as comfortable as walking on fluffy clouds.

New Look yellow shirt

All in all, it’s very nice. Which allows me to neatly segue into the next part of this blog post – my niggling fear that I’m too nice. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll always think it’s important to be nice and kind. But I sometimes I feel I take it too far. I’m that mousey person who writes a vaguely opinionated tweet and then has to delete it five minutes later when someone disagrees with me. I’m also the person who hates to tell people what I’m really thinking.

Sometimes being too nice can backfire on you. This weekend, I had a little revelation. I’ve been left feeling really unsettled by the collapse of our house move, and unable to work out why I can’t move on. And I think this is mostly because I’ve just been too nice and calm about the whole thing. I haven’t always been so reasonable: the old me would have wept and gnashed her teeth until everyone was sick of her. And eventually, I’d have felt better for it – but in the process I’d make everyone around me miserable.

New Look yellow shirt

So life, motherhood and the universe have all taught me that’s it’s easier to be nice and avoid confrontational tantrums.

You can have too much of a good thing. I’m starting to realise though I need to allow myself to feel angry about things that go wrong – and to not be afraid to talk about them. I like to write about the sugar-coated version bits of my life: fashion, beauty, lifestyle, happiness. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a bit more honesty in amongst the prettiness.

Being nice doesn’t make you weak – but burying your true feelings probably will. So, I’m going to be a little braver. Clichéd as it sounds, the mouse needs to roar sometimes. 

New Look yellow shirt and M&S shoes

I wear: Shirt, £15.99, New Look / Jeans, £25, Nasty Gal

Shoes, £35, Marks and Spencer / Bag, £29.99, Zara